"My childhood was not uncommon for the
time. Individuality was encouraged. Independence
was encouraged. A kid did not expect to be
'entertained.' You made your own entertainment.
A far cry from today." (an excerpt from Deanna
Birkholm's article, "Ladies Night")
A friend of mine invited me out of my office
the other day to see his new truck. Yep, brand
spankin' new, shiny black beast, decked out with
all the bells and whistles. Nice! As I opened the
rear door to this monster, there, attached to the
back of the front "captain's chairs", were two,
mind you, T-W-O DVD players, mini-types, facing
to the rear. He has two kids. Bear with me; I'll
attempt to tie this all together later.
Many years ago, while vacationing in Anna Maria
Island, Florida, my now ex-sister-in-law decided
to spend a weekend with us. She has two girls
and a boy.
As I have described Anna Maria in past articles,
the place is beautiful. White-sand beaches,
emerald waters, sunsets paint the western horizon
almost every afternoon, unless the thunderstorms
move in. Even if they do, the lightning show is
better than any Fourth of July fireworks display.
The bottle-nosed dolphins play so close to shore
one can almost touch them. Critters, like sand
fleas and small crabs, can be dug up in the warm,
wet sand. There are live and multicolored coquinas
that can be scooped into ones hands from the edge
of the water, and feel them try to dig their way
back out through ones fingers. Yet, to my two nieces
and nephew, "There's nothing to do."
The house we rented faced the Sunshine Skyway
Bridge eight miles to the east. The entire rear
of the house was huge, glass windows that
overlooked the bay, and just around the bend
of the island, within sight of the house, was
the Gulf of Mexico. Just sitting in the living
room was one of the best seats in the joint to
observe, well, everything. But still, there was
nothing to do, according to the whiney kids. Oh
yeah, there was a television in the living room...
damn, almost forgot! So, there they would sit,
staring wide-eyed at the one-eyed babysitter,
as all the beauty of the beach, top to bottom,
passed right outside of the thin, glass windows.
That weekend, I really upset the apple cart.
I cut the plug off the television with my
pocket knife. No more day-long cartoons, it
was time to drag the kicking and screaming
brats outside to explore; to show them there
was more to life than inside of that Cyclops
called television. By the end of the three-day
weekend, the TV was history, and all four of
us spent the rest of their time there digging
clams, playing with critters we found in the
soft sand and spending time where "there's
nothin' to do."
As I read Deanna's article, parts of it took
me back to those kids, and I was reminded of
growing up in a simpler time without DVDs and
televisions in every room.
Sundays were special back in my youth. Those
particular afternoons were set aside for family,
and certainly no television. We had one,
eventually. A black and white Zenith that was
connected to an antenna outside that I would
have to go out and turn as my dad yelled from
inside the house whether the reception had
improved from bad, to a little better than bad.
It was seldom watched. There was more to the
world outside than a snowy, TV screen.
Sunday afternoon, a time to "go get lost," as
Dad would put it. We would load up in whatever
old car we had at the time. The '55 Chevy, or
the '60 Buick LaSabre were the two most memorable
cars to me. I learned to drive with both of those
neat, old cars. Anyway, Mom, Dad and I would take
off after the noon meal in whichever direction
the nose of the car was pointed, and we would,
literally, try and "get lost."
There were things to see, places along 'side the
road to stop and check out, future fishing spots
to explore. I recorded these sounds, sights and
smells in my young memory. And, little did I know
at the time, use them, long for them and return
to them as an adult. Dad would pull off the road
at any given point to see "stuff." Things of
interest, like stuffed, monster alligators at
places where signs advertised of "Real Indians,
Cypress Knee Lamps, Saltwater Taffy and Beaded
Indian Belts." Places where fresh-squeezed,
orange juice was served up cold and free.
During the three-month long summer breaks from
school, mostly my time was spent outdoors. A
lot of this time, I spent by myself. Even at
an early age, I had my own garden to attend.
With help from Dad tilling the ground, I would
labor out there beside the house planting seeds
and young tomatoes. I looked after my little
piece of ground, pulling weeds, hovering over
it and waiting for the day I would proudly
present my mom with the fruits of my labor.
What a thrill to harvest part of our supper!
As a young'un, I played in ditches and caught
craw-dads, turtles and frogs. I had "best friends"
to pretend with. We were pirates, and cowboys
and Indians. We had Roy Rogers cap guns with
holsters, Hop-a-Long Cassidy watches and cowboy
boots and hats. We caught "toad frawgs" and
turned 'em loose in the minnow pond to just
watch 'em swim.
There's a television commercial that comes on
every once in a while that's really cool. I
think it's "Go RV'ing". There are actually
two of them. One shows a campfire at a distance
and a man's voice saying, "I can't find my foot...
I can't find my foot...", then he yells out,
"CAN YOU HELP ME!!??" Excited screams from kids
can be heard. It's a dad telling ghost stories
around the fire to his kids. Neat. The other is
talking about fences around the playground, and
the backyard. It then cuts to a couple of kids
playing on some beach with no fences and then
asks the question, "Who will entertain the kids?"
It then shows a little boy with the look of
wonderment on his face as he looks up at a giant
redwood tree, and the narrator says, "Mother
Nature, that's who." Well, something like that.
As Dad drove, a continuous movie played outside
the car's windows. There was no need for DVDs
strapped to the back of the seats. There still
So, that's entertainment huh? My movies were better.
See y'all next week. ~ Capt. Gary
Gary grew up in central Florida and spent much
of his youth fishing the lakes that dot the area.
After moving a little closer to the coast, his
interests changed from fresh to salt. Gary still
visits his "roots" in the "lake behind the house."
He obtained his captain's license in the early '90's
and fished the blue waters of the Atlantic for a little
over twelve years. His interests in the beautiful shallow
water flats in and around the famous Mosquito Lagoon came
around twenty-five years ago. Even though Captain Gary
doesn't professionally guide anymore, his respect of the
waters will ever be present.
Gary began fly fishing and tying mostly saltwater
patterns in the early '90's and has participated as
a demo fly tier for the Federation of Fly Fishers
on numerous occasions. He is a private fly casting
and tying instructor and stained glass artist,
creating mostly saltwater game fish in glass.